The Facebook Papers
In October, a consortium of 17 US news organisations began publishing a series of stories on Facebook based on thousands of pages of the organisation's internal documents that were earlier disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.
Facebook Whistleblower Thinks Tech Co’s Shareholders Would Overthrow Zuckerberg if They Could
11:59 GMT 24.10.2021 (Updated: 13:39 GMT 25.10.2021)
In May, a product manager at Facebook left her position, taking tens of thousands of internal documents with her and disclosing them to US media and the Securities and Exchange Commission – the government agency tasked with enforcing the law against market manipulation.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has said that platform’s use by criminal groups outside English-language markets, including human traffickers and armed groups in Ethiopia, was a key factor motivating her decision to leave the company with a trove of documents detailing its shady underside.
“I did what I thought was necessary to save the lives of people, especially in the global south, who I think are being endangered by Facebook’s prioritization of profits over people,” the millionaire data engineer told The Observer on Sunday. “If I hadn’t brought those documents forward that was never going to come to light,” she said.
Haugen also thinks Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a key obstacle keeping the trillion-dollar tech company from making changes to its policies, and that other shareholders would drop him from his leadership role if they could.
“I believe in shareholder rights and the shareholders, or shareholders minus Mark, have been asking for years for one share, one vote. And the reason for that is, I am pretty sure the shareholders would choose other leadership if they had an option,” she said.
“He has all the control. He has no oversight and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern that company at the level that is necessary for public safety,” Haugen insisted, pointing to Zuckerberg’s 55 percent majority voting share stake.
Haugen is expected to appear before the UK’s parliament on Monday to discuss a proposed online safety bill, and to attend a Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal a week later. The UK bill, supported by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, would oblige social media companies to set up additional mechanisms to protect users from ‘harmful content’, on penalty of severe fines.
2 September 2020, 07:58 GMT
Haugen was hired by Facebook in 2019 to work in its so-called ‘civic integrity team’ combating ‘misinformation’ and suspected election interference. She left in May 2021, taking a trove of documents with her, and sharing them with the Wall Street Journal, which has run a series of stories on them known as ‘The Facebook Files’, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
She has also become a darling of Democratic lawmakers interested in suspected misinformation pushed on the platform ahead of the 6 January riots at the Capitol by Trump supporters convinced that the November 2020 election had been stolen, and has testified before Congress. The Biden administration has suggested that the information brought forward by Haugen may be an indication that the company’s “self-regulation is not working,” and that the government may have to step in.
In testimony before the Senate earlier this month, Haugen accused Facebook of “intentionally” hiding “vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world” on issues including the mental health of teenagers, the efficacy of its AI systems, and the platform’s “role in spreading divisive and extremist messages”.
Zuckerberg has dismissed Haugen’s allegations, accusing her of “false” and “disheartening” claims that “don’t make any sense”, and maintaining that the tech giant “cares deeply” in the issues she addressed – including online safety and mental well-being.
Haugen’s testimony has prompted other whistleblowers to come forward. Among them are Sophie Zhang, an ex-data scientist who went public in 2020 and accused the company of failing to tackle hate speech and misinformation, especially in developing countries, and who felt that she had “blood on [her] hands” by working for the company.
Facebook Struggled to Curb Violent, Divisive Content in India, Internal Documents Show
24 October 2021, 04:31 GMT
A separate, unnamed whistleblower, also a former member of the integrity team, has also come forward, claiming that the company routinely undermined internal efforts to combat ‘misinformation, hate speech and problematic content’ after 2016 over fears that it might anger then-president Donald Trump and put a dent in profits.